Skip to main content

Climate Central: Nuclear Yes? Nuclear No? So Confusing!

Climate Central notices that nuclear energy technology is not standing still. The writer, Bobby McGill, makes it clear that nuclear “isn’t likely to grow much in the United States” and that the “the EIA [Energy Information Agency] has forecast flat nuclear power (through 2040).*” So that’s that –or is it?

The $60 million the Department of Energy is dedicating to nuclear research will go to more than 40 different projects at universities across the U.S. focusing on nuclear energy modeling, nuclear security and safety and new reactor concepts and fuels.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, speaking Monday at the Energy Information Administration’s annual energy conference in Washington, said he is bullish on nuclear power as a clean energy source. However, the high costs of developing nuclear energy have to come down, he said.

Fair enough, I guess. Other accounts of Moniz’s keynote suggest he talked mostly about the U.S.Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the need to release barrels from it judicially. But if he made a few vagrant comments about nuclear, too, that’s good.

But what about these DOE projects?

MIT atmospheric scientist and nuclear power supporter Kerry Emanuel said the Department of Energy’s research grants seem small, but the climate will benefit if they aid in developing a new nuclear power program with new-generation reactors that could burn toxic waste from obsolete nuclear plants as fuel.

“What this country needs is a renaissance of fission-based power,” Emanuel said. “I really hope that we start paying attention to the climate problem and we get on board with nuclear as one of a suite of technical solutions that will help us deal with the risk.”

One definitely is left to think that nuclear energy is just short of sinking into the mire, though McGill does allow Emanuel to get a little closer to the actual state of play. It is sort of fun to imagine the nuclear doubtful looking at the current situation and thinking, Well, nuclear is dead – isn’t it? – climate change – might be something to have a potent emission free energy source – but nuclear? –maybe?

We’ll take the maybe if that’s what it is. It may be halfway to no, but it’s also halfway to yes, and that’s the direction in which “maybe” is trending. DOE certainly thinks so.

---

How much does DOE think so? Here are comments made by Moniz in April before handing out DOE scholarships for students going into nuclear engineering:

“The awards announced today will directly help support the future of the nuclear energy research workforce, as we continue to grow the U.S. clean energy economy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “By helping promote cutting-edge nuclear science and engineering, the Department is helping to advance American leadership in the safe, secure and efficient use of nuclear energy here and around the world.

Doesn’t seem very conflicted, does he?

---

We’ll look more closely at the technologies DOE is engaged with in a future post. Climate Central does not get too much into it, boggled as it is that anyone is doing anything about nuclear energy.

---

*EIA does a forecast every year to survey the energy scene as it stands currently and projects that forward. It changes every year to reflect policy and industry changes, so looking at one year’s forecast and saying, “Well, that’s it, that’s the future” is beyond what EIA intends and, when used as an argument for or against something as it is by Climate Central against nuclear, is not really – fully – a fair rendering of the report. It’s less Nostradamus than it is a Polaroid.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?